L&B Beer Guide
We live in such a great place to drink beer. There’s so much fantastic craft beer being made here — Able, Dangerous Man, Enki, Fair State, Fulton, Indeed, Surly, and Tin Whiskers, just to name a few. And nowadays it feels like a new brewery or taproom opens every few months or so.
All that variety is thrilling, whether you’re a beer expert, enthusiast, or dabbler. Beer has all the complexity of wine at a lower price point — so it’s a fun drink to explore. And like wine, it pairs beautifully with food. Of course, if you’re just getting into beer, figuring out what you like is challenging enough, without adding in food pairings. We’re here to help with both!
In this guide, we’ve provided general tasting and pairing notes for a handful of the most popular lagers and ales. You’ll see that we refer to a couple of beer terms throughout the guide: Alcohol by Volume (ABV) and International Bitterness Units (IBU).
ABV is generally listed as a percentage, and it tells you how much of your beer is alcohol. Basically, the higher the percentage, the boozier the beer. That’s a handy thing to know when thinking about pairings — you might like to go for a lower ABV at lunch, for example.
As you might expect, IBU measures a beer’s bitterness from hops on a scale of 0 to 100 (0 is not bitter at all and 100 will blow up your taste buds). If you know where your tastes fall on that scale, IBU can help you choose a beer, but it can also be a deceptive number. For example, a stout’s relatively high IBU can be balanced out by its malty sweetness!
Lager (ABV 2.5 to 5.1 %, IBU 5 to 15)
Lagers are light yellow in color, and they have a mild flavor — crisp, clean and very smooth. With their low ABV, they’re a perfect mid-day brew. Drink a lager when you feel like a beer with lunch, but you’ve got stuff to do in the afternoon.
Pairings: We like a lager with lighter fare: think fish tacos or a club sandwich on the patio.
Pilsner (ABV 4.1 to 5.1%, IBU 30 to 45)
Pilsners are golden as straw. They’re as smooth and clean as a lager, but with a little more personality. Pilsners have a little more hops, and they can also taste lightly malty, like a slightly sweet biscuit.
Pairings: Pilsners also have a crisp, medium body that’s really nice with lighter meals. We pair it with dishes like chicken salad and grilled salmon with asparagus.
India Pale Ale (ABV 6.3 to 7.6%, IBU 50 to 70)
This beer’s pale, golden hue belies its gonzo hops. India pale ales taste amazing — big intense hops, full of citrus and herbaceous, with a nice dry, crisp finish. They’re on the boozier side, so treat them like cocktails; sippers rather than quaffers!
Pairings: Because India pale ales can tend toward strong and bitter, we’d recommend pairing them with something equally flavorsome, like a spicy chili, andouille sausages, or blue cheese. Chinese food? Yes!
Pale Ale (ABV 4.4 to 6.1%, IBU 30 to 50)
A golden or copper blond beer, pale ales are hoppy — though less so than their cousins, the India pale ales — and their flavor can vary from mild hops to wildly complex and floral. With such a variety, pale ales are fun to taste in a flight.
Pairings: With all those floral notes and a light bitterness, pale ales are natural for seafood. Serve them with everything from linguini and clams to grilled herring.
Brown Ale (ABV 4.2 to 6.3%, IBU 24 to 45)
As the name suggests, brown ales have a dark, caramel color and they taste malty — nutty, sweet, with a lovely, light bitterness. They’re incredibly easy to drink, and so while not too boozy, a little dangerous.
Pairings: We like to pair brown ales with heartier foods and rich flavors, like French onion soup, smoked salmon, or pot roast.
Porter (ABV 7 to 12%, IBU 35 to 50)
Porters are deep, dark brown, and full bodied. They taste like dark chocolate — a little cocoa sweetness with just a hint of sharp, bitter hops. They’re so thick, you can’t drink a ton of them, and that’s a good thing because they have the highest ABV of any of these beers.
Pairings: That boozy quality is one reason to pair Porters with food — the other is that they provide great ballast for super flavorful or spicy foods. Serve a porter with chicken enchiladas or Korean barbecue. Oh, and chocolate cake!